Ensemble for Medieval Music. Benjamin Bagby, Director

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Sequentia celebrates its 40th anniversary in March 2017




Katja Zimmermann

(exclusive of Europe)

Seth Cooper
Seth Cooper Arts Inc.
4592 Hampton Ave.
Montréal, QC, Canada
Tel: 514-467-5052

In association for
Season 2016-2017 with:

Jon Aaron
Aaron Concert Artists 
220 West 148th St. 4J
New York City 10039, NY / USA
Tel: 212-665-0313


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Program Archive

Lost Songs of a Rhineland Harper

IV. The Harper in the Underworld

Felix qui potuit boni

(Rhineland, early 11c)

Another song from the "Consolation of Philosophy" of Boethius. It tells the story of the mythological singer and harper Orpheus, describing his daring voyage into the realm of the dead to rescue his beloved wife, Eurydice, through the power of song. The fact that this song turns up in the Rhineland harper's collection attests to the power of the Orpheus myth in musical circles throughout the early Middle Ages.

Text: (Refrain:) Happy is he who can look into the shining spring of goodness; happy is he who can break the heavy chains of earth.

Long ago the Thracian poet, Orpheus, mourned for his dead wife. With his sorrowful music he made the woodlands dance and the rivers stand still. He made the fearful deer lie down bravely with the fierce lions; the rabbit no longer feared the dog, quieted by his song.

But as the sorrow burned within his breast, the music which calmed all nature could not console its maker. Finding the gods unbending, he went to the regions of hell. There, he sang sweet songs to the music of his harp...songs inspired by his powerless grief and the love which doubled his grief. Hell is moved to pity when, with his melodious prayer, he begs the favour of those shades. The three-headed guardian of the gate is paralyzed by that new song; and the Furies are touched and weep in pity....At last, the judge of souls, moved by pity, declares, "We are conquered. We return this man to his wife, his companion, purchased by his song. But our gift is bound by the condition that he must not look back until he has left hell."But who can give lovers a law? Love is a stronger law unto itself. As they approached the edge of night, Orpheus looked back at Eurydice, lost her, and killed her.

This fable applies to all of you who seek to raise your minds to sovreign day. For whoever is conquered and turns his eyes to the pit of hell, looking into the inferno, loses all the good he has gained.

(Translation: Richard Green [abridged])

Upcoming Concerts

17 March 2017
Basel (CH) Predigerkirche, Freunde Alte Musik
Monks Singing Pagans

25 March – 2 April 2017
Lafayette College, Vassar College, Princeton University, Yale University
Benjamin Bagby Beowulf tour USA

1 April 2017
New York City, Symphony Space
Book release event for ‘The Inquisitor’s Tale’

11 May 2017
Paris, Université de Paris – Sorbonne, Amphithéâtre Richelieu

See full concert schedule




Benjamin Bagby has recorded the only surviving Old High German epic fragment, the Hildebrandslied (The Song of Hildebrand), for inclusion in an audiobook version of Adam Gidwitz’s new book for children and young adults, The Inquisitor’s Tale, just released by Penguin/Random House. He also recorded harp accompaniments to go with portions of the reading of the story. A release event is being schedule for New York City in early April, 2017.


New program given birth at Cambridge University

Following working sessions in 2014-15 with University of Cambridge musicologist Sam Barrett in the USA (Harvard University and Ohio State University) and in Cambridge (Pembroke College), Sequentia was in residence at Cambridge in April for the final rehearsals of the new program 'Monks Singing Pagans'.  An informal video of a rehearsal made by the university became a YouTube sensation, with over 500,000 views. In addition to their rehearsals and working sessions on the songs of Boethius, Sequentia gave a masterclass and the premiere performance of 'Monks Singing Pagans', immediately followed by the US premiere during a residency at Dartmouth College (USA). The week spent at Dartmouth included teaching activities in music history, performance practice, Latin poetry and manuscript studies. Sequentia returned to Cambridge in late June to prepare a special program of the Boethian songs, which was given as part of a symposium on medieval Latin song, with a special concert on 2 July in Pembroke College Chapel.


Teaching in Basel and Milano

Benjamin Bagby will be teaching performance courses on medieval song at two music academies this year:

Schola Cantorum Basiliensis (Basel, Switzerland): 31 October to 1 November 2016 and 13-14 March 2017

Scuola Civica di Musica Claudio Abbado (Milano, Italy): 2-3 December 2016 and 16-18 February 2017


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